A Kelowna local traveled all the way to Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington D.C. during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and put together an incredible film documenting his journey.
Filmed and edited by Nick Schafer, The Ballot or The Bullet takes viewers on a roller coaster of a ride where they are flung into the heart of the socio-economic divisions prevalent in major U.S. cities. And among the divisions, Schafer’s application of voice overs and background music leaves viewers somewhere in between inspired and terrified.
According to Schafer, when first traveling the U.S. he was unsure of what type of video he wanted to create.
“As a filmmaker, I typically never go anywhere without a camera in hand. So, it was no surprise that I filmed my journey while traveling in Baltimore and Washington,” began Schafer. “I didn’t know what type of video I was going to end up putting together, but my goal was for it to be impactful. I wanted to be authentic in each moment, and portray the emotion I felt. I didn’t just want to document the trip like a typical tourist would.”
Once he arrived in Baltimore, Schafer began to get a sense of the major themes that would play out in the video.
“From what I saw of Baltimore, it’s an extremely intense city. In fact, we were told to watch out for a few different areas in town, as bullets are known to fly down those streets. The air is always tense, every car horn is always honking, people are always yelling… It’s just not what we’re used to here in Kelowna,” said Schafer. “The stark contrast between the poverty and homelessness in Baltimore to the extreme wealth and magnitude that I saw in Washington was what really struck me the most. That, mixed with the rallyies and protests of the opposing political parties supporters, is what really drove the inspiration behind my film the Ballot or the Bullet. I wanted to show the unique perspective of a Canadian in the midst of the 2016 U.S election.”
According to Schafer, immediately he was struck by how prevalent and severe certain issues are in the United States. Schafer hopes that this video may help people talk to one another about the issues as well as question how they judge other people.
“Considering the recent Trump election I think now is a better time than ever to shed light on these topics. Let’s take racism for example, I obviously knew it existed, and I knew it was still a prevalent issue, but I had never seen it to the degree I did in Baltimore… It was eye-opening and to be honest quite shocking.”
“I think it’s one thing to hear about it, but it’s another thing to witness it and to such a large degree. Change certainly needs to happen, so If my video can do so much as to spark a conversation, encourage someone to question their judgments towards another race, religion, or even political party, I’ll be happy. After all, we are people, we are all human and all deserve to be treated as such.”
Ultimately, in addition to wanting to present a Canadian perspective of the U.S. election and raise awareness regarding the severity of particular issues, as a filmmaker Schafer also wants viewers to feel something. According to Schafer, whether viewers feel curious, angry or upset, at least by feeling some form of emotion they will be more inclined to consider the issues and how to go about addressing them.
“I want nothing more than for people to feel something while watching this short film. I want to evoke emotion. From there, curiosity can spark, and change can happen. This world desperately needs more understanding, empathy and kindness. Hopefully the interpretation of my experience in the states can perhaps open a few more eyes and make a small difference. If not, well hey, thanks for checking out the video anyways, and I hope everyone can at least find my unorthodox filmmaking entertaining!”
To learn more about Nick Schafer and view more of his work, visit his website here.